J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012 Jul 12;130(1):205-14.e2. Epub 2012 Apr 12.
Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
Background: Mycoplasma pneumoniae (Mp) frequently colonizes the airways of patients with chronic asthma and likely contributes to asthma exacerbations. We previously reported that mice lacking surfactant protein A (SP-A) have increased airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) during M pneumoniae infection versus wild-type mice mediated by TNF-α. Mast cells (MCs) have been implicated in AHR in asthma models and produce and respond to TNF-α.
Objective: Determine the contribution of MC/TNF interactions to AHR in airways lacking functional SP-A during Mp infection.
Methods: Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was collected from healthy and asthmatic subjects to examine TNF-α levels and M pneumoniae positivity. To determine how SP-A interactions with MCs regulate airway homeostasis, we generated mice lacking both SP-A and MCs (SP-A(-/-)Kit(W-sh/W-sh)) and infected them with M pneumoniae.
Results: Our findings indicate that high TNF-α levels correlate with M pneumoniae positivity in human asthmatic patients and that human SP-A inhibits M pneumoniae-stimulated transcription and release of TNF-α by MCs, implicating a protective role for SP-A. MC numbers increase in M pneumoniae-infected lungs, and airway reactivity is dramatically attenuated when MCs are absent. Using SP-A(-/-)Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice engrafted with TNF-α(-/-) or TNF receptor (TNF-R)(-/-) MCs, we found that TNF-α activation of MCs through the TNF-R, but not MC-derived TNF-α, leads to augmented AHR during M pneumoniae infection when SP-A is absent. Additionally, M pneumoniae-infected SP-A(-/-)Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice engrafted with TNF-α(-/-) or TNF-R(-/-) MCs have decreased mucus production compared with that seen in mice engrafted with wild-type MCs, whereas burden was unaffected.
Conclusion: Our data highlight a previously unappreciated but vital role for MCs as secondary responders to TNF-α during the host response to pathogen infection.